help students affected by Prop. 300
Arizona Daily Star
By Lourdes Medrano
Verde High School graduate Celina Tolano is a former cheerleader, prom queen
and homecoming queen whose report cards always had A's and B's.
she lives in the country unlawfully, which nearly thwarted her college
Tolano's lack of legal status makes her ineligible for in-state tuition, a
directive that Arizona voters approved in Proposition 300 last November.
recently, the costlier out-of-state tuition might have put college out of
reach for the Mexico-born Tolano. Instead, she became the first beneficiary
of a college scholarship fund the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and
philanthropist Paul Lindsey created especially for students like her.
scholarship is a blessing," said Tolano, who wants to be a math teacher.
Lindsey said he decided to donate $50,000 in seed money for the scholarship
fund after learning state law would make it tough for high school graduates
such as Tolano
to afford college this year.
was outraged," the Tucson businessman said. "These are exactly the wrong
people that we want to punish. These are the students who have graduated
from local high schools; maybe they've been in the states almost their whole
"Maybe they're good students, and they want to continue with their
education. Those are the people that we need here and we want here."
Former state Sen. Dean Martin, the Phoenix Republican behind Proposition
300, said he has no problem with private funds being used to assist
purpose of the law was never to deny access to higher education," Martin
noted. "It was simply to end taxpayer subsidies for those who are here
Martin said he opposes the proposed
Development, Relief and
Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which has long
stalled in Congress and would grant students raised in the United States
temporary legal status and citizenship eligibility if they enroll in
many ways, the DREAM Act is just a student-based amnesty," Martin said.
León, who stepped down as president of the chamber last week, said the
organization would work to add to Lindsey's donation. The scholarship fund
is intended for Arizona high school students with good grades and who plan
to attend Pima Community College, he said.
high cost of out-of-state tuition makes it almost impossible for these kids
to continue their education," León said. "As a community, we can't turn away
and kick these students to the curb as if they were nobody."
PCC, in-state students pay about $1,200 in annual tuition, while
out-of-state residents are charged $5,600. At the state's universities,
in-state students pay roughly $5,000, while nonresidents pay about $15,000.
León's hope is that the DREAM Act someday will make the scholarship fund
unnecessary. "It's in the best interest of the country to help educate these
young people," he said.
Students born in Mexico who live in Arizona, either legally or illegally,
also will have access soon to another newly-established college scholarship
Fundación México, which works to strengthen the influence of Hispanics, and
the Arizona Border Rights Foundation will raise funds to boost an initial
$5,000 donation from their own members. Florencio Zaragoza, president of
Fundación México, said the scholarship fund would continue even if the DREAM
Seizing the opportunity
Tolano, whose parents brought her to Tucson when she was 7, said she always
assumed she would attend college.
want to have a career and give back to the community," she said.
now, the teen said her unlawful status was something she rarely thought
about because it meant no obstacles.
family initially had intended to return home to Hermosillo, Sonora, she
said. But as time passed and Tolano and her two older sisters became more
involved in school, it became harder to leave.
graduation, Tolano said she realized that Proposition 300 could make it
harder for her to enroll in college. Unlike U.S. citizens and lawful
permanent residents, she does not qualify for most scholarships and
Still, Solano said she had faith that she would find a solution to her
her May graduation, she learned about the new scholarship fund from a local
immigrant-advocacy group. She quickly applied for it and got a scholarship
to cover a semester's tuition. Good grades automatically renew the
Tolano said she hopes the DREAM Act becomes a reality by the time she
completes her two-year studies at Pima, since the legislation would allow
her to transfer to one of the state universities as an in-state student.
now, she will focus on the opportunity before her.
"These scholarships will help a lot of students who can't go to college
because they're in the same situation I'm in," Tolano said. "Being the first
to receive one, I feel a special responsibility to do well."
Contact reporter Lourdes Medrano at 573-4347 or firstname.lastname@example.org.